Victor K. Kiam II, once hailed by Advertising Age as the "Lee Iacocca of the shaver business," died last week at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 74.
The New Orleans-born businessman became the self-anointed pitchman for Remington Products' shavers after he acquired the ailing company in a $25 million leveraged buyout in 1979. Mr. Kiam brought Remington back to profitability within one year by cutting staff, altering the product line and, most notably, writing and starring in an aggressive TV ad campaign.
"I liked it so much, I bought the company," Mr. Kiam enthused about Remington's electric shavers. The now infamous line granted him notoriety among TV viewers.
"Shaves as close as a blade, or your money back," Mr. Kiam promised in his TV spots-in some of which he wore a bathrobe, in others, only a towel.
By the mid-1980s, Mr. Kiam's company was locked in a head-to-rotating-head battle for market share with category leader Norelco, and Mr. Kiam himself had secured a spot in national consciousness.
"Obscure ex-brassiere executive one day, corporate hero the next-on the strength of a single TV commercial starring you-know-who. Thus the leveraged buyer-outer of Remington Products really made a name for himself," wrote Ad Age's Bob Garfield in 1987.
Mr. Kiam also penned two books on entrepreneurialism, "Going For It!" (1986) and "Live to Win!" (1989). He created and paid for TV ads to spur book sales.
Other ventures included the launch of a Remington clothing line, which Sears, Roebuck & Co. carried beginning in 1986; and Mr. Kiam's ownership of the National Football League franchise New England Patriots from 1988 to 1992.
After receiving an undergraduate degree from Yale University and an MBA from Harvard, Mr. Kiam began his career as a cosmetics and toiletries salesman for Lever Bros. His next stop was the girdle and bra division of Playtex, where he eventually became exec VP-marketing. He held the top spot at the Benrus Watch Corp. before taking over Bridgeport, Conn.-based Remington.
Grey Advertising, now Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, has handled media for Remington since 1981. Eight years ago Grey also took over creative duties, but by then Mr. Kiam had removed himself from most TV ad appearances.
Mr. Kiam remained chairman of Remington until his death.